by Tim Lezard
Women working in broadcasting say sexist attitudes are still prevalent in the workplace. A survey of NUJ members disclosed unequal pay rates and women being overlooked for promotion.
As part of its evidence for the House of Lords Communication Committee’s inquiry into women in broadcasting, the NUJ surveyed its female members working or have worked in TV and radio.
The results mirrored other research in the industry, which found women in broadcasting were more likely than men to be judged by their looks, were given “softer” stories to cover and faced sexual harassment. One other stark message stood out: in many cases women were earning less – in some cases more than £10,000 – than their male counterparts.
There were more than 30 comments about unequal pay in the survey completed by 227 women. These included:
· “Until recently, I earned less than half the salary enjoyed by my male comparators.”
· “I submitted an equal pay review request because I was being paid substantially less than my male peers. I was given a raise, but am still on less and this extra money was not backdated.”
· “A man at exactly the same grade as me, with far less education and experience, and who joined the BBC after I did was paid £10,000 more than me.”
· “I am paid £5k less than a man on the same grade, despite having more responsibility and having worked more years on the team.”
· “I was paid around 40 per cent less than my male co-presenter even though we did the same job.”
Comments recorded by the survey gave some shocking examples of sexual harassment and incidents of the “everyday sexism” in newsrooms and broadcasting studios. A common observation was of an old-boys’ network or “blokeish” atmosphere. Sports journalism was one area particularly identified as a difficult area for women to be taken seriously.
· “I’ve been told that I was sent to jobs because I’m attractive (and the people I’m interviewing were told I’m attractive), but then I was told not to go for a new job because emotionally I’m a bit weak.”
· “Women are never heard in meetings. You suggest an idea, then half an hour later some man suggests the same one and everyone loves it!”
· “Once when I was going for a job, I was told that one of the candidates confided in another that he had nothing to worry about because the competition ‘was just girls’.”
· “Women are not allowed to age and are expected to be more than averagely attractive and well presented. The same is not true of men. I have been asked my age, told to spend more of my own money on haircuts or clothes. As an intelligent woman I find it insulting; there is a difference between meeting acceptable professional standards of dress and appearance and being judged by a significantly more demanding set of criteria than men.”
Not all responses were negative. One respondent said: “There are lots of women in broadcasting. The medium can be ageist but, by and large, there’s no barrier if you’re good.”
When asked if duties as a mother/carer sometimes conflicted with working hours, the response was 41 per cent said yes, 10 per cent said no and 49 per cent said “not applicable”. Some responses showed there was some good practice, with line managers or organisations offering flexible working options.
· “I think it’s not so hard for a woman to work in broadcasting, the difficulty comes when one becomes a mother. I have been working part-time since my daughter was born. This has been fine as my manager is very supportive of working parents. But the culture of broadcast news is ‘stay late, come in early, never switch off’ which is impossible to do if you have children. I think managers need to trust that mothers can be promoted to senior positions and still work part-time. Your experience doesn’t diminish just because you have a child, in many cases, parenthood makes you a better journalist. Women drop out of broadcasting when they have children because career progression appears impossible.”
· “I overheard a manager who was wondering who to send on a foreign trip, saying ‘We can’t give it to so-and-so because she has childcare problems.’ The trip was awarded to a male colleague who has a child of the same age. The assumption is that women have childcare problems; men don’t.”
· “A cultural change needs to continue and deepen which makes part-time/flexible working more of a norm and not something just for working mothers (or, indeed, working fathers), but something all employees have the option to do. Only once it is more commonplace throughout the workforce and, crucially, at more senior levels, will there be creative solutions to being able to work part-time without sacrificing your career.”
NUJ equality officer Lena Calvert said: “Our survey of members shows that in many ways broadcasting has become an easier environment for women to work in and many can enjoy a good career, but there is still a worryingly high level of sexist behaviour in newsrooms and studios. It is staggering to learn that women are being paid less than their male colleagues when doing exactly the same job. It is an appalling state of affairs that parts of the industry are still seen as a boys’ club where women find their promotion and progression blocked.
“An overwhelming message that came from the women we surveyed was the need for a more flexible workplace, where people who work part-time are taken seriously and given jobs with responsibility. In our submission to the House of Lords Select Committee on Communications inquiry into women in broadcasting, we have called for Ofcom to use its existing regulatory powers to enforce an industry-wide standard diversity audit and we would like to see its constitution amended to include a duty to monitor on and off-screen equality levels in all the media organisations under its remit. This survey shows just how vital the need for that is.”
* The survey was carried out by SurveyMonkey from 20 August to 7 September, 2014. Although this is a self-selecting survey and therefore not the most scientific sample, the NUJ was able to target members directly who work or have worked in broadcasting. The high return and also the detail in the comments sections made it a useful and relevant addition to the data on this issue. Of the sample, 70 per cent had worked for more than 10 years, 18 per cent for 5-10 years, 10.5 per cent for 1-5 years and 1 per cent for less than one year. More than half (51 per cent) transferred from non-broadcasting to broadcasting